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Tony Grist

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Hylas And The Nymphs [Feb. 1st, 2018|12:41 pm]
Tony Grist
 J.H. Waterhouse's Hylas and the Nymphs isn't a great painting (or at least that's the current critical consensus) but people do rather like it. I first encountered it in childhood as a black and white plate in H.A. Guerber's Myths of Greece and Rome which was a formative text for me- and think fondly of it for that reason. Me and Hylas go back a ways. It is currently in the news because Manchester City Art Gallery has taken it off the wall and left the space empty in order to "prompt a conversation".

Waterhouse was a second generation pre-Raphaelite specialising in pictures of pretty women in historical or mythological settings. In this particular instance the young women are young and naked and trying to get a Greek chappie to join them in a lily pond.  I suppose it could be considered mildly titillating- but then so could 40 percent of the contents of any Art Gallery. Western art- when it's not about praising Jesus or admiring the landscape or immortalising the features of some rich and powerful  person- is almost entirely about sex- and- specifically- given that most patrons and artists have historically been men- with pandering to the male gaze. As soft-porny pictures go Hylas is on the mild side. A quick online search would turn up much raunchier works by Titian, Rubens, Matisse, Picasso or almost any other master you cared to name. (Even Leonardo and Michelangelo were at it- only their sensibilities were gay). If the City Art Gallery owned paintings by any of these titans (it should be so lucky) it would be an act of suicidal courage to take them down. 

Anyway, the Gallery has certainly prompted a conversation- only it's more like a shouting match. People don't like to be told what they can or can't look at and aren't afraid to offend against Godwin's Law whilst saying so. There may well be a debate to be had- post-Weinstein-  about the sexual crassness of the western artistic tradition- but what's happening here is a howl against censorship. 

Yes, Hylas and the Nymphs may be a bit naff, but, please (only most people aren't saying "please") put it back on the wall and let us make our own minds up.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: matrixmann
2018-02-01 03:59 pm (UTC)
I sometimes come back to asking myself recently - through all this fuzz about sexual harassment -: "(If) I feel molested every time I've got to see anything sexual, does anybody cover the whole world for me, so I don't need to feel molested anymore? No! People tell me all the time it's me who's got something working the wrong way in my brain because sexuality is supposed to be the "most natural thing in the world". I've gotta live with needing to look at that shit 24/7, as far as I can't voluntarily choose to avoid it.
And now some overly anxious idiots come preaching that all of this is offending, sexistic and what not and everybody surrenders to them like saying "yes, you're right, only looking at a woman/man is wrong"?"
Difference between me and them would be, they had more money and could ruin you, that's mainly the reason, for sure, why everybody surrenders this new craze of thought and culture police.
But other than that - where's the difference?
Sure, the other position can be used politically, that's what it is. To control people with shame.
While I'd demand for mankind to just show a little bit of ambition to create more than simple pornography 24/7.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-02-01 06:18 pm (UTC)
Our age- like every other age- is all mixed up about sexual imagery. On the one hand the most extreme pornography is available at the touch of a button (something that has never existed before) and on the other we have cases like this where images that have been given a free pass for generations because they're "art"- are suddenly viewed as potentially offensive. By all means lets have a "conversation" about what is acceptable but I doubt that we'll get very far. One person's tasteful erotica is another person's filth.

We're going through a period in which the balance of power between the sexes is shifting- something I'm all for- and as one result of this the one-sided erotic art of the past may cease to be to our taste. Criticising such art is one thing, suppressing it quite another.
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[User Picture]From: matrixmann
2018-02-01 06:57 pm (UTC)
To me it feels like something's trying to redefine culture and he or she does it totally unconnected from everything that was there before.
Not like I don't know this too, but I have a sort of attitude of doing this with regard to the past. Speaking: I know I have a different way of looking at things, which is not the common way.
But those other entities are not aware of it, more than that they even try to deny that, and through that, they try to install some dogmatism while claiming to the world they do the opposite. The result of that is: Dogmatic conservatism as it always was, only it sells a different flavor, so you don't recognize it that clearly. Like I make it to sell you an incredibly bad deal as an advantage to you.
Much noise is there about it because, I guess, people notice what kind of transformation somebody is trying to do in the background - and they seriously don't like it, the way it happens as well as the content.

Power shift of the sexes I don't see, it's more a power shift of the 1% of the pyramid against the rest in the lower ranks as it has always been.
It only comes in a coating to sell it to women as something in their favor, so they voluntarily impose it on others and less paid claquers are needed.
Result of it then is no real power shift for women, but just a ridiculous civil war scenario of everyone against everyone.
Saying, I also say that in regard of the self-evidence of the equality of both sexes in mind that the Real Socialist block from past times established in parts of Europe. Many people which just only view that chapter of history from the outside - and focus on all things having gone wrong... - ignore or even don't know that the reds came around the corner first with deciding equal rights for women and men on a wider range.
So, I'm not some backward-minded idiot creating conspiracy theories in fear of losing some of his exclusive rights; I'm saying that as "equality is self-evident to me, and I see a mass-manipulation shift in mindset towards inequality" which tries to hide itself under the cover of some old cliche that women are under-age victim-personalities that have no will and ability to take over responsibility on their own.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-02-02 01:10 pm (UTC)
The way I see it women are saying, "We were taken advantage of in a former time when we thought we were powerless, but now we claim our power and all that shitty stuff is going to stop."
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[User Picture]From: matrixmann
2018-02-02 08:28 pm (UTC)
The way I feel it - it more turns into a thing of "we don't want anything to change, we only want the tables turned and be the sadist this time". Why?
Because there are some people abusing it for making politics that rather follow the goal of a little child wanting attention and confirmation much more than a real complex system to change.
'Cause - if you really want to change, you recognize all problems that are there, not only those that suit your inner agenda.
If you want the other thing, if you want to be the abuser for once, then you shout at each and everyone over just not agreeing with your opinion a 100%.
Latter thing is what practically happens with all who open up their mouths and talk big right away.
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